The UK government’s current coronavirus advice is that, with theatres, the show should still go on. I was certainly glad One Jewish Boy, British dramatist Stephen Laughton’s brilliant play, written as a response to rising anti-semitism, did last night.
Sadly, Stephen himself wasn’t able to attend as planned because he had to leave London early to get one of the last flights back to New York, where he is writer-in-residence at the American Museum of Natural History.
“Loyalty. Oppression. Control. And blood libel. The four columns of anti-semitism”
He was missed – but I’m sure his ears were burning, as we talked about him, his play and the many important issues it raises around anti-semitism, inherited trauma, hate crime, dual heritage couples and more.
In One Jewish Boy, title character Jesse is paranoid and he’s frightened and it’s messing up his relationship with his mixed-race wife Alex, his job, his child and his life… A bittersweet comedy, the play focusses squarely on the inheritances that haunt us and asks if the fear of hatred could be worse than hate itself…?
“The fascism… it doesn’t just arise in a democracy…it has to be placed… tested”
I was joined for the discussion at Trafalgar Studios by stars Robert Neumark-Jones and Asha Reid plus special guest Rabbi Miriam Berger of Finchley Reform Synagogue. Amongst the questions we tackled, with some incredible input from the audience and their lived experiences, were:
- What was the controversy around the play’s premiere at the Old Red Lion Theatre in 2018?
- The story has been updated to 2020, to include the December 2019 General Election. What else has changed?
- What are attitudes now amongst the Jewish community to the Labour Party in the UK?
- Is anti-semitism on the rise or is it a matter of ‘perception’?
- How do anti-semitism and Islamaphobia differ?
- Is inherited trauma a real thing?
- Do Jews in the UK feel less safe in 2020?
- Should Jewish children learn self-defence?
- What can the Jewish community do to reduce anti-semitism?
- Can a couple of ‘others’ work?
This post-show discussion was very much a two-way exchange between panel and audience. There was a keen desire to continue the conversation, and share more personal experiences, which we did afterwards in the bar. As Asha Reid, having just these types of conversations is in itself a sign of progress. Thanks to all involved.
(One timing correction from the video: Stephen Laughton wrote the first version of One Jewish Boy in 2018 – not 2014 as I mistakenly said – shortly before it premiered at the Old Red Lion Theatre.)
One Jewish Boy is currently booking at London’s Trafalgar Studios until 4 April 2020.
Event photography by Peter Jones.
Production photography by Pamela Raith.